Supreme Court litigants rarely obtain celebrity status after decisions are rendered. Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe, is probably the most famous former litigant because she switched sides and became a pro-life advocate in 1995. Most people don't know that Brown v. Board of Education plaintiff Oliver Brown was a welder, or that Ernesto Miranda died after a bar fight. Winners typically slip from their Supreme Court victories back into their normal lives.
California attorney Steve Filarsky, however, managed to extend his Supreme Court fame for a few extra minutes.
You'll recall that the Supreme Court ruled for Filarsky last week, holding that a private attorney temporarily retained by the government to carry out its work is entitled to seek qualified immunity from a civil rights lawsuit.
The case, Filarsky v. Delia, stemmed from Filarsky's role as a private attorney working for the City of Rialto, Cal. in an employment investigation. Nick Delia, the firefighter who was being investigated, sued the city, the fire department, two fire chiefs, and Filarsky for violating his constitutional rights in course of the investigation.
The Ninth Circuit concluded that Filarsky was not entitled to qualified immunity because he was a private attorney. The Supreme Court disagreed, noting that Delia's claim arose from Filarsky's work for the government.
Wednesday, Above the Law reported that Steve Filarsky had written Nick Delia to express his thoughts on his victory. The letter stated:
Dear Mr. Delia:
Congratulations. You are now in the history books! You will be able to read about it eternally from hell.
Not so sincerely,
Steve A. Filarsky
First impression? This is too amazing to be real. (Sidebar: We contacted Steve Filarsky. He confirmed that the letter is authentic.) Considering the facts of the case, we suspect that most attorneys in Filarsky's position would be tempted to do the same.
The Supreme Court's opinion in the case recounts that Delia's attorney threatened Filarsky a number of times in his objections to the investigation. Here's a sample:
- We might quite possibly find a way to figure if we can name you Mr. Filarsky ... If you want to take that chance, you go right ahead.
- Everybody is going to get named, and they are going to sweat it out as to whether or not they have individual liability.
- Make sure the spelling is clear [in the order] so we know who to sue.
What do you think of Steve Filarsky's parting shot in this case? If you spent your time and money litigating all the way to First Street, would you gloat?
- Filarsky v. Delia (FindLaw's CaseLaw)
- Private Attorneys Working for Government Get Qualified Immunity (FindLaw's Supreme Court Blog)
- Qualified Immunity Extends to Government's Outside Counsel (Westlaw Insider)